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Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio
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Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  401 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Award-winning picture-book author Tony Johnston presents the poignant story of a loving Mexican-American family in East L.A. in her first novel for young readers.

Los Angeles is a place of movie stars and fast cars and people who are too rich and people who are too poor. An area of freeway chases and drive-bys and death. But there's another L.A., one where warmth and humor
Paperback, 128 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by Scholastic Paperbacks (first published September 1st 2001)
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Paulyna He kind of let it slide, but he also started spending free time with Jose. Coach Tree is making him practice ball, and making him study. Coach Tree…moreHe kind of let it slide, but he also started spending free time with Jose. Coach Tree is making him practice ball, and making him study. Coach Tree said he won't let Jose toss his life into the Dumpster.(less)

Community Reviews

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Chris Maynard

Purpose: Multicultural Literature (Wide Reading Project)

Genre: Realistic fiction

Format: Novel

Age Level: Intermediate (I): grades 3-5/6 (ages 8-10/11)

Themes: identity; adolescence; family; community; inner-city life; poverty; gangs; love vs. hate; good vs. bad; languages; stereotypes

Cultures: Mexican American culture

Read Aloud: No

Literary Elements: Powerful, multicultural insights into the cultural traditions and close bonds that comprise a poor yet incredibly rich Mexican-American family; Very r
Sep 23, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: latino, theme-unit
Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio, by Tony Johnston, is the story of Arturo Rodriquez and his family, recent immigrants to Los Angeles from Mexico. Arturo describes what life is like for his Latino family and the issues they face in a gang infested and very troubled area. Throughout the story, Arturo goes back and forth between speaking in English and speaking in Spanish. In the back of the book, there is a small Spanish glossary to help the reader. Arturo describes the people he meets, ...more
Wilson Boardman
A fun read, laced with Mexican-American Spanish and character.

This book resembles The Watsons Go to Birmingham in it's format (anecdotes strung together with a more grave event towards the end).

For 5th grade readers (or older) with a bit of an old soul and an appreciation for cultural identity and high value of family.
Theresa Reifon
Format/Length: Chapter book; 128 pages

NCTE Notable Children's Book
NCSS- CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book
SCBA Children's Book Award Winner

Theme(s): Friendship, Family, Right vs. Wrong, Compassion/Kindness, Sense of Home


This chapter book focuses on the life of a young boy, Arturo Rodriguez,after his family moves to a barrio in L.A. from Mexico. It is narrated by Arturo. The words flow beautifully and lyrically making the story easy to read. Arturo also uses wor
Johnson, Tony. Any Small Goodness. New York: Scholastic, 2001.
TARGET AUDIENCE: Grade 4 to Grade 6
Setting: Urban Los Angeles area around the late 1980s early 1990s
Characters: Middle-schooler Arturo and his friends Alicia, Jaime, Lloyd and Raul. Arturo's Abuelta, his mother and father, his litte sister Rosa dn his oldr brother Luis.

Although this is one continuous story of Arturo’s life in Los Angeles, it is written in a way that each chapter can be its own separate short st
Feb 05, 2011 Julia rated it really liked it
Shelves: latino-a
Life in the barrio can mean gangs and shootings, but in Tony Johnston's Any Small Goodness, we see Arturo's small, loving, Mexican-American family showing us the good in people. Johnston has made each chapter in the book focus on someone that has done a "small goodness" for the community. For example, Ms. Cloud, the librarian is a hard working teacher who is trying to make the school library a wonderful place filled with new books. Arturo describes her as being tough in "a warrior way" even thou ...more
Georgia Herod
Jan 05, 2015 Georgia Herod rated it really liked it

City, traffic, riots, movie stars, masses of people, “Spanglish,” illegals, internationals, wealth, poverty, drive-by shootings, death and drama—a stream of consciousness list of words that apply to Los Angeles. Johnston sets this 128-page gem inside the world of LA, stripping away the generalizations and allowing readers to experience life with the Rodriquez family in a barrio. Through the eyes of Arturo, Johnston captures the uncertainty and anxieties of a first day at school, the excitement a
Dec 05, 2016 Aljandro rated it it was amazing
when it comes to family and traditions, Arturo can never be more serious than ever. it's all good as long as your with your family, but there are still some problems in places like where Arturo is. And there are a lot of new that are important to this tradition like chorizos, chicharrones and lots of chiles. This is in a lot of hispanic traditions.
It's all good as long as your with your family, some homes in the neighborhood have columns of stone. That's why his dad's plan was to paint rows of s
Dec 10, 2016 Madison rated it really liked it
Shelves: chapter-book
Arturo moves from Mexico with his family to the streets of LA. Each chapter tells a short story of a good person in his life. This book is a fictitious account that provides insight into the Latino culture and inspires young children to search for and be the good. I'd say it is perfect for late elementary school kids.
Apr 22, 2015 Vanessa rated it really liked it
Any small goodness is a very interesting book that I recommend to you guys to read! A lot of things happened throughout the book. Some of the things that happened are happy, sad, and interesting. Throughout this book review I'm going to tell you guys each of the categories that happen throughout the novel that are happy, sad, and interesting.

One of the good things that happened in the novel is that there were that Arturo was a very trouble kid in school. Somethings that he would do in the class
Janet Frost
Jun 11, 2012 Janet Frost rated it really liked it
A small very sweet book. Which seems hard to figure with the setting being the Barrio in L.A. I read this book at the same time as Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt. They created a poignant juxstaposition. In Okay for Now the main character has an abusive and narcisistic father who brings only pain and shame to his family. In Any Small Goodness the main character has a simple and gentle family in spite of the angry, ugly environment around them. In each book the young boys are searching for manhood a ...more
pa'tí m
Oct 20, 2011 pa'tí m rated it did not like it
Shelves: medium-ones
No gracias, este libro no es para mi.

I appreciate the author's attempt to show the reader "the good" in the typical LA Mexican family, but I wasn't able to appreciate the pseudo-cultural pride and assimilation of Arturo's family. Also, when I read this in the chapter about the L.A. River I accidentally dropped the book:

"What I most love about this place is the graffiti blooming in the river channel. Letters like colorful balloon animals shriek all the stale sayings: 'Viva la raza! Antonio! #1 Nú
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bluebonnet
Arturo and his family move to LA and run head on into both the terrible problems of the city and the amazing love of the town. Arturo’s Papi is very wise, showing the children how to find good in the world and revealing to them how to make good from bad.

p. 16 On the way home Papi says, “This Leo Love is a brave man. In spite of fear he saved Huitla. When no eyes are upon him, that is a person’s true test.”

p. 103 “Mijo.” With carino, Papi touches my shoulders and looks into my face. The world s
Feb 03, 2010 Phu rated it liked it
i read through page 45 in this book.
11. If i wish to learn when i read again tomorrow. I hope that i can also continue to learn more about the small good living stories. Because i want to get knowledge to apply for my own life, it's really a really precious experiences when i went to live in a new country.
12. Absolutely that are Mexican- American words and dialects. It really makes me difficulty to understand what's that mean in that situation or in society at that time. Because you only go thro
Eric Black
Jun 27, 2014 Eric Black rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Tony Johnston gives us a possible alternative to the way the barrio and hood are so often portrayed.

I enjoyed each chapter for its own sake and the book as a whole for what could be. Utopian? Perhaps. But not impossible. Just as Papi says, "If you do not find enough of the good, you must yourself create it...any small goodness is of value." The impossibility is in thinking all must be good and that any small goodness is of no account against the crushing weight of evil in the world.

Sep 30, 2012 Grace rated it liked it
Shelves: grade-8
This book is about a life of Barrio, coming from a Mexican family, who recently moved to L.A. The book talk mostly about the small event that Barrio and his family go through in L.A. In the book, Barrio switches from English to Spanish often, and incorporates Spanish words in to English sentences, which makes it rather confusing for non-Spanish speakers. There is a glossary that has translations of the Spanish words in the back of the book, but I find it really annoying to have to keep flipping ...more
Jan 11, 2008 Missy rated it really liked it
My kids' elementary school (grades 4-6) is reading this book and sharing it with the community. It shows that despite challenges of rough neighborhoods or poverty, there are wonderful people who give of themselves to make life a little bit better for those they come in contact with. The main character is able to see past thoughts of revenge or hate and notice the "small goodness" around him, and he realizes that he, too, can make a big difference.
Oct 18, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing book ! Arturo is the main charecter in this story.His family moves from Mexico to L.A. It is a collection of short stories about Arturo and his family.This book is hard to read and under stand and might take some rereading but over all an amazing book.The charecters int this story all seem realiztic like Alica and Abuela. This book was really amazing Tony Johnstone did a really goood job in telling this story.
Jun 30, 2012 Treva rated it it was amazing
This is a great middle-grades book. Each chapter is about an act of kindness done by someone in the neighborhood, including the Green Needle Gang, of which the main character Arturo is a member. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the book. Many are understandable through context, but there is a glossary at the end of the book for reference. Each chapter could be used as a stand-alone text for reading or writing instruction.
Mrs. Joseph
Oct 09, 2016 Mrs. Joseph rated it really liked it
Any Small Goodness by Tony Johnston was a great reminder of the importance of family and acts of kindness, both large and small. The young characters in this book were very realistic and I enjoyed reading how they viewed and navigated the world around them. The book has realistic dialogue and a sweet message. I recommend this book to young adults who like books about life and family.
Oct 12, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting and fun book. It would be hard to read if you don't know any Spanish, because the author mixes it into the story. The story shows a loving family living in a tough part of L.A. There are both bad things and good things that happen. I love the humor in this book. Written for young people but lots in it for adults too.
Michelle Harris
May 13, 2009 Michelle Harris rated it it was amazing
I loved, loved, loved this little book. It reminded me of Patricia MacLachlan's's almost like poetry it flows so well and is so lyrical. An immigrant family deals with the struggles and joys of living in LA. The love this family has for each other is almost palpable. It's a beautiful book that would make an excellent read aloud.
This book was very sweet. The exploits of the Green Needle Gang went in a very different direction than expected--I was surprised there was no further confrontation with the hoodlums--and the ending really made me smile.

A good book to use for our culture & identity unit...if we weren't already reading SeedFolks! :)
Jul 22, 2012 Candi rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-for-kids
Great little scenarios told from the point of view of a boy who's family has recently immigrated to America, living in modern Los Angeles. All the chapters are tied together by philanthropy, making a choice for the greater good, and celebrating your identity. Really would love to share this book with my students. Short, quick read.
Sep 05, 2007 "Stars" rated it it was amazing
I don't think I'll ever tire of reading this book with my middle school students. Spanish and English language are as closely woven together through the story of one Mexican-American boy. The story is both humorous and humbling and my students appreciate the cultural relevance to their own experience.
Dec 14, 2014 Eva added it
Shelves: another-lifetime
What a beautiful gem of a book! Simple and yet not oversimplified, this book takes a look at LA through a young Mexican immigrants eyes - touching on the ugly realities that exist but focusing on the beauty that also lives and exists in modern LA.
Nov 11, 2012 Dolcie rated it really liked it
I wish this had been a non-fiction book. I enjoyed reading about the acts of kindness that happened in Arturo's neighborhood, but is that what it's really like to live there? That's what I want to know - the true stories.
Ling Juan
Jan 18, 2009 Ling Juan rated it liked it
This book is about a boy named Arturo who moved from Mexico to Los Angeles with his family. He needed to adopt to an new environment in L.A. and he was not use to it. But at the end he did it. Arturo had a great Christmas with his family!
Mrs. Isakson
Jun 11, 2011 Mrs. Isakson rated it it was amazing
It was a required book for a summer school program I was teaching, but I ended up really liking this book. It's a group of related short stories set in Los Angeles about the people who live there, even the Lakers! One of my favorite chapters was the The Green Needle Gang.
Nov 14, 2007 Phillip rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone
This book is about a mexican boy who talks about his family's tradition and culture. It's basically a book describing latinos and the way they live. This book is very detailed and I would recommend this book to anyone studying about spanish or latino history.
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Tony Johnston has written many acclaimed books for young people. She and her husband lived in Mexico for fifteen years, where they raised their children. She now lives in San Marino, California.
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